I've got great respect for the Augusta National Golf Club as home of The Masters, the annual rite of spring serving as golf's first major tournament. That's shared with great disdain for the Augusta National Golf Club management, ranking alongside the International Olympic Committee as the most backward and bull-nosed sports organization in the world.
It's tough to give ANGC props on my end. This is the group that forced CBS, its main provider of Masters coverage forever, to pull Jack Whitaker off his anchor role in the 1960s after describing the crowd that threatened to get ugly at the players on one hole as a "mob"--a comment he was correct in making and CBS should have backed him up all the way. The group CBS will not defy now in bringing back Gary McCord to cover 16th hole action after the "bikini wax" comment of years ago. Forgiveness appears not in the language of this group, nor does flexibility. Wonder why CBS continues to limit coverage to three or four hours per weekend day, little live activity on the front nine holes, and keeps The Masters prize money a secret?
But this time around, give Billy Payne and the rest of Augusta's management credit for something. Give them credit for seeing the possibility of 3D as a great asset to their tournament, and inviting multichannel distributors to come forward and offer 3D simulcasts of CBS/ESPN Masters coverage to their customers. True, the offer came less than three weeks before the tournament earlier this month, too quick for many carriers to jump into the deal. But jump in Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Cox and others did, and they made the most of it.
I caught the 3D work late Sunday afternoon at Time Warner Center in New York, in a tent-like setting indoors with comfy sofas. About 200 people were there when I arrived, and plenty more came in and out for a view. The Masters, and Phil Mickelson's heroics en route to his third major win there, looked spectacular with those glasses. You could see the flowers sparkle brighter, the undulations of those greens and sandtraps you could reach out and hit with a wedge. No one complained of dizziness or bad views. A quick, unscientific survey had people mostly mesmerized at what they saw, eager to see more in 3D.
Time Warner Cable gave their visitors in that tent a nice time that Masters Sunday. Don't know if everyone coming were turned into 3DTV believers, but if they did, they did because for once, Augusta's management cracked up its business as usual, like or lump mentality.
***There's a lot of skepticism from both the general and tech media over 3DTV's chances. Indeed, the day I'm writing this column, a blogger on an entertainment Web site presented five reasons for showing 3D the door. Jury's out with me over public adoption of 3D, but it's clear we may be underestimating how fighting a chance this medium has to strike big. Start with this: when HDTV first came out over a decade ago, sets were well over $10,000, far too pricey for a considerable chunk of early adopters. The initial 3D set/glasses price tags run in the $2,500-3,500 range, and some of the sets coming up this summer may drive the cost before $2,000. More attractive to early adopters off the bat.
***So far, Panasonic, Samsung and other 3D set makers are not making the mistake of putting their products in stores, then wish for an audience to find them. They are going to the public with demonstrations like Panasonic's about-to-wrap "Touch The Future" tour. And when they demonstrate, 3D is not coming off like a novelty act--watch Avatar now and nothing for six months. They are demonstrating that 3D brings something to a wide variety of programming. Remember, HD sales took off, and the road to broadcast/cable network HD feeds, began when that point was embraced by the public. Will it happen again?
***One believer in 3D is Adam Kasper, senior vice president of digital media at MPG. "It's the most exciting thing coming my way in the next six or 12 months," he told the audience at a digital media measurement conference in New York April 7. "We're going to see a holiday push of second-generation TV sets (including some not requiring special glasses) as the next thing to have. It will change the way commercials will be conceived and shot."
Until the next time, stay well and stay tuned! Simon Applebaum is host/producer of Tomorrow Will Be Televised, the Internet radio program covering the TV scene. The program runs Mondays and Fridays at 3 p.m. Eastern time/noon, Pacific time on BlogTalk Radio (www.blogtalkradio.com), with replays available 24/7 at www.blogtalkradio.com/simonapple04. Tomorrow also is a podcast downloadable to any major mobile device from 17 Web download sites arranged by Sonibyte. Have a question or comment? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, or the Tomorrow Will Be Televised group page on Facebook.